Recently a friend pondered where she should take her husband for an overnight getaway. She wanted a place on the East Coast, something romantic, a spot that would feel wintery without the clichés (i.e. no dog sleds). She wanted a grown-up hotel with excellent food and wine. A tall order?
I might have been at a loss to make a suggestion, if I hadn't recently returned from a stay at the Four Seasons Washington in Georgetown. Instead, I didn't hesitate. I directed her to the hotel that presides over the storied D.C. neighborhood with cobbled lanes, shuttered 18th century brick houses, quaint cafes and shops, a village within the capital city that's charming enough to have leapt to life from a storybook, if that storybook had been written by Bob Woodward.
Georgetown is teeming with DC power players. They live here; they play here; they drink here; they make things happen here.
Spin through the front doors of the Four Seasons into the sleek lobby lined with five portraits by artist Roni Stretch and you're admitted into Washington's nerve center.
While sipping my morning coffee in the lobby, I spied a TV anchorwoman, a retired U.S senator, a Ghanaian diplomat and a player for the Wizards, all within the span of an hour.
As expected, service at the Four Seasons is impeccable, but what makes it really stand out is the friendly enthusiasm of staff from valets to reception.
There are more than 1,600 works of art on display throughout the property, a collection that rivals many museums with original work by artists like Andy Warhol and Fernando Botero.
Rooms are subdued and understated. Simple lines, gentle tones and calm lighting set a neutral stage for whatever visitors have come to Georgetown to do. Baths are a study in luxury with marble and granite, deep soaking tubs, rain showers and plush robes.
To up the romance factor, I recommended to my friend that she order a bottle of wine from the virtuously varied menu and a sampling of house chocolates. Oh, those chocolates -- served in a wooden box with a glass top and bento-style dividers -- are tailor-made for love affairs.
Just outside the front door of the Four Seasons lie some of D.C.'s favorite restaurants, like Das Ethiopian, brunch hotspot Kafe Leopold and the handsome 1789 with its roaring fireplaces. However, you'd be remiss if you don't plan to eat in one night.
Dine downstairs at Bourbon Steak, Michael Mina's love song to beef with a menu running the gamut from bold rib eye to tender Waygu filet. Share an order of fries, paired with a trio of sauces or a mound of buttery brussels sprouts. Pair that meal with a straightforward Caesar and you've got steak night done right.
End your evening with a carefully crafted cocktail in the lounge. At the helm is the dynamic duo, mixologists Duane Sylvestre and Jamie MacBain, who have created some of the finest drinks in the city. (I'm told the comeback of the sloe gin fizz can be traced back to this lounge.)
No matter which drink you order, the bar has just the ice. There are twelve different varieties at the ready, including horseradish ice made especially for the bar's Bloody Mary. Here, non-alcoholic drinks aren't an afterthought. Take one sip of the Tiki Tiki, made with grapefruit juice and cinnamon, and you may swear off alcohol for good.
As for my friend, she took my advice and booked herself into the Four Seasons last week. I wasn't surprised when I heard that she'd extended her stay.